November 29, 2013


Dear M,

This discussion came up recently. Someone who read my writing (not on this blog) commented that he/she had doubts about my idea of gender equality. I glared and shook my head - I had no idea what she/he meant. Apparently I did not write 'he/she' as much as I should have. Wherever the gender was not specified, I should have used 'she/he'. That's how the world works today, he/she said.

I shrugged. That seemed to me to be the least important thing in the whole exercise of writing. After all, I am a fiction writer. In my stories, the characters are either female or male, generally. (I haven't ventured anywhere else, yet.) In my stories, I don't have to say 'he/she' - it is either a he or a she.

But I knew what made him/her say it. It's true that in most of my non-fiction writing, I do not pay any attention to it. I do believe in equal rights, but saying 'he/she' and making my text look robotic (example, this blog) was certainly not my idea of proving it. When I write, I see the person I am writing about. When I write about a writer or a reader or anyone else, I see someone I know. So automatically what comes to my fingers is a 'he' or a 'she' - because I am writing about a certain person, just as I write in my stories.

Sometimes I do edit the text and make it 'he/she' just to please others. Not always.

I am not quite sure about how grammar rules have evolved, this one probably did stem from the patterns of a male dominated world, but usually the generic 'he' is considered to encompass 'she' as well. Yes, that does sound quite offensive. I understand why he/she flew off the handle. And I should know.

One had no idea what one was getting into.
One had no idea what he was getting into.
One had no idea what he/she was getting into.
One had no idea what they were getting into.

Everyone should remain in his seat.
Everyone should remain in his/her seat.
Everyone should remain in her seat.
Everyone should remain in their seats.

It doesn't seem so bad now that I have written about it and cleared my thoughts. But I think I am going to stick to my preferred style at least in this blog, my own world, because I know very well there is no disrespect intended. Elsewhere, I may have to give due consideration to the sensitivities of the reader.


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